Think Tank Photo Perception Pro Backpack Review

I just got back from another photography workshop in Detroit, Michigan.  In my last post I talked all about prepping for a photography conference/workshop.  On this trip, I wanted to see if I could reduce the number of bags I was carrying even further. I love my Synapse backpack but decided to put the Think Tank Photo Perception Pro to work and try to limit my carry-on to one instead of two. Due to the fact that the Perception Pro has collapsable drawstring pockets and a sleeve for my iPad as well as my 13" MacBook Pro, I was able to do just that.  I had one medium size suitcase which I checked at the gate and the Perception Pro and that was it!

One of the things I love about the Perception Series is that they are designed with drawstring pouches sewn upright in the bag so that you can easily access the gear by reaching down into the bag from the top.  Most traditional backpacks have divided sections that are best accessed by laying the bag down and unzipping the top completely to get at your gear. The other feature that came in handy at the airport was the mesh pockets on either side of the bag.  I hate navigating the airport with my hands full of various things.  I was able to stash my boarding pass in the roomy front pocket and I had a soda bottle in one mesh pocket and a few snacks in the other mesh pocket.

The Pro is the largest in the Perception series.  The exterior dimensions are 11.4” W x 18.9” H x 7.9” D (29 x 48 x 20 cm).  The photo to the right shows the Tablet, 15 and Pro models. I reviewed the Tablet previously. You can read that review here.  The 15 and Tablet models only have the drawstring pouches in one row at the top of the bag and the bottom half of the bag is empty.  You can use an insert to store more gear, carry extra gear loose in the bottom or use it to pack personal items, snacks, light jacket, etc.  All of the bags have organizer pockets sewn to the inside bag lining.  There is a zippered pouch as well as some pen holders and other pockets.  All bags have zippered pockets on the exterior, hidden tripod strap and they all come with a rain cover.  The padded shoulder straps on each are very comfortable and they all have excellent foam padding and lumbar support.  The Pro has a waist strap that is removable. Only the Pro model has the mesh water bottle holders.  The bag retails for $149.75 at this writing on the Think Tank site.

The Perception Pro backpack in Taupe. I'm 5'5". When full it  rested against my butt.

The Perception Pro backpack in Taupe. I'm 5'5". When full it  rested against my butt.

On this trip I needed a variety of gear as I would be doing street shooting as well as some landscape and macro work.  I packed my tripod in my suitcase, but the rest of the gear had to fit into the backpack.  Due to the fact that I shoot with Olympus micro four-thirds gear, fitting a lot of gear in a relatively small package is not that difficult.  Inside the backpack I packed my Tenba Packlite Travel Bag, my Tenba BYOB9 and a Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag.   When I wanted to travel light and do street shooting, I took the Tenba combo.  For countryside shooting, I took the Perception Pro so that I could carry the variety of lenses I wanted and when I wasn't shooting and I needed to carry my wallet, glasses and my iPad mini, I had the packing cube shoulder bag.  I could have also used the Packlite for this purpose if I wanted to as well.

Here's a list of what I carried in the Perception Pro:

  • Tom Bihn Packing Cube Shoulder Bag set on the very top of the bag with my wallet, reading classes, keys, gum, tissues, pen and a clear organizer pouch with various cables and headphones.
  • Tenba Packlite
  • Tenba BYOB9 which was holding my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with a 9mm body cap fisheye, 60mm macro lens, 17mm lens
  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with grip,  tripod plate and 12-40mm Pro lens attached 
  • Olympus 40-150mm Pro lens
  • Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye
  • 13" MacBook Pro
  • iPad mini with keyboard case
  • camera emergency kit
  • pad
  • pouch with itinerary and boarding pass
  • pen
  • lens pen
  • lens cloth
  • lens wipes
  • tripod allen wrench
  • media card wallet
  • Field Notes pad
  • 4 camera batteries
  • iPhone with Mophie Juice Pack

The Perception Pro fit under the seat in front of me on the plane to my destination with ample room to extend my legs on one side.  On the return, the aircraft had recently installed seats that were smaller and had reduced under seat storage.  The Perception protruded about 3-4 inches and had to be stowed in the overhead bin.

This is a very well-made, highly functional bag.  On it's own the bag is not heavy and it easily accommodates a lot of gear.  I would easily recommend this bag to anyone in need of a well organized bag with lots of features.

Check out the video below for a visual of everything discussed in this review. I didn't realize how tired I was when I recorded the video until I watched it afterwards. The bags under my eyes have bags!